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Miss. Dept. of Education proposes new changes for academic standards for social studies

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 9:29 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Ahead of the 2022-2023 school year, the Mississippi Department of Education unveiled proposed changes to the academic standards for social studies.

The 309-page document details revisions made towards the material students are expected to learn about that subject.

“The initial reaction was these are a lot of changes,” said Chauncey Spears, Educational Policy Analyst of the Mississippi Center for Justice. Spears used teach social studies and spent more than a decade working with MDE.

He admits the proposal leaves him with more questions than answers. 

“We were primarily concerned with why the changes were being made, and how more people can have a stronger voice in structuring the social studies education in classrooms, in public schools, in their communities throughout the state,” said Spears.

One potential change that caught Spears’ attention is listed on page 200 of the document.

The previous objective stated was for teachers to teach students “names of important people of the modern Civil Rights Movement, including Mississippians. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, James Meredith, Fannie Lou Hamer, Charles Evers, etc.”

The newly proposed revisions would only require teachers to “identify important people of the modern Civil Rights Movement, including Mississippians.”

Another example of the changes highlighted in the proposal -  the previous objective was for teachers to teach students to “examine the Southern resistance to Reconstruction reforms, including: Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws, Ku Klux Klan, etc.”

However, the new revisions would only require teachers to “analyze Southern resistance to Reconstruction reforms.”

As a result, teachers won’t be required to teach about events or people not listed in the new proposal, which Spears said is concerning.

“If specific actors and events in our state’s history, or in American History, or how we see civics, etc., are not explicitly listed in there, it is up to the teacher, and up to the teacher’s professional judgment, and that may be subjective on some levels,” Spears expressed.

MDE issued a press release on the proposed changes and said more than 40 Mississippi educators helped craft the revisions.

“Academic standards outline the skills and knowledge expected of students in each grade and subject. Local school districts set their own curriculum,” the press release stated.

MDE will now have a public hearing allowing people to weigh in on the proposal, a hearing Spears and the Mississippi Center for Justice requested.

”And there may be plausible explanations, we just didn’t see them in the document,” Spears explained. “We hope to get insight into why some of the changes were made, and how some of the things that seem to be taken out are going to be incorporated into the instruction, and how those things will be protected so that the teachers and the students can learn about those things, have those discussions, have those free-flowing ideas in those classrooms.”

If anyone wants to speak at the hearing, you must register by 9 a.m. on January 25.

Speakers are expected to address the content of the Mississippi College and Career Readiness Standards for Social Studies 2021.

The hearing will take place at 9 a.m. January 28 at the Mississippi Agricultural Museum Sparkman Auditorium in Jackson.

If the revisions are approved, the standards would go into effect for the 2022-23 school year.

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